David Cronenberg Explains Why Netflix Passed on the Miniseries That Turned Into ‘The Shrouds’

Cannes 2024: After taking several years off, the director is back with a deeply personal—and spooky—movie

David Cronenberg Canne
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David Cronenberg’s “The Shrouds” began as a seed planted by the death of his wife Carolyn, and grew into the film as it premiered at Cannes on Monday. “I stopped filmmaking for quite a while after that, for five or six years,” the veteran director explained at a Cannes press conference on Tuesday, “and then I felt the impulse to tell a story about it.”

“It’s not realistic, not autobiography, but somehow my experience of her death and my loss, with some other considerations… in that sense, it is my most autobiographical film,” he continued.

The movie, which was originally conceived as a 10-episode limited series for Netflix, was easy to stitch up. “I just stuck two episodes together,” Cronenberg said. “I didn’t have the heart (to make movies), but I was intrigued by the idea of a streaming series. I always thought a movie as we know it, two hours long, is more like a short story or maybe a novella, not like a novel.” A streaming series, he added, “could be like a novel.”

Netflix, though, liked one of his episodes but didn’t want to pursue the rest. “It’s not what we fell in love with in the room,” he quoted an executive as saying.

The end of “The Shrouds” has been celebrated by some and left others in a state of confusion. For Cronenberg, the message is clear… kind of. “The idea was it’s a dream because of his connection with is dead wife,” the director explained. “I didn’t want to do the traditional flashback of moments.”

“In the dream sequences, he is reliving, in a dreamlike way, the worst moments of the treatment of his wife and the surgery she had to go through, and that really continues in the plane,” he continued. “He wakes up, but he’s not really waking up.”

“The idea is simply this: if he’s going to have a new love affair and (going to be) making love to this woman he’s met—that erotic experience with this new woman is really a blended experience of his past and present. In a way, he’s making love to his wife at the same time.”

The inherently personal nature of the movie was not lost on its stars, Vincent Cassel and Diane Kruger. “I didn’t have the impression I was trying to become him,” Cassel said, “(but) as soon as I got dressed and I started to see my face reflected, it was quite obvious that there was something that had happened. I must admit there are some sequence where (the resemblance) is troubling at times.”

Kruger didn’t know the movie was based on Cronenberg’s personal life when she received the script, the actress said. “I was a little shocked… David didn’t put that on me, but I took that really hard, in a good way. I felt humbled by that.”

“The process of working with David is shocking, because he doesn’t do table reads and he doesn’t rehearse,” she continued. “If this movie had come to me 10 yrs ago, I would have been completely frazzled on set because it’s definitely unusual, but I felt like I was thriving on set because I felt like he trusted me and that moved me … I felt loved, you can do anything when you feel loved.”

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